A fact few people know about me is that I started my own e-commerce startup when I was about 17 years old. At that time, I actually didn't even know what ecommerce meant. Now, it's just a buzzword that we used to categorize our business.
It was after high school, when I had a free summer and I developed the entrepreneurial itch. My friends and I were free and always dreamed about opening our own boutique. "Maybe in 10 years," we said. But I thought, what's holding us back? So in summer 2011, we opened Antoinette's Boutique, a socially responsible business committed to promoting artisans and empowering female entrepreneurs abroad with access to US markets.
At the beginning, we had ambitious plans. We launched with three sections: vintage, handmade, and charity. We scoured vintage shops for unique finds to resell on the site and made accessories inspired by Pinterest boards. For charity, we teamed up with nonprofits to bring back suitcases of handmade jewelry from developing nations like Nicaragua, Namibia, and Kenya.
As the organization developed, I began to realize the impact of ecommerce on social good. What artisans sell for a few cents in Kenya, we could sell for a few dollars. And the difference really did make a significant impact. We heard back from villagers that said they could now send their kids to school or buy more vegetables, or purchase a community solar oven. This was incredibly inspiring to hear, and we had quite the adventure running our business as teenagers.